In an emergency meeting on Nov. 4, the Mid-Prairie school board voted to temporarily suspend preschool for three and four year olds following an increase in COVID-19 absences. The board will reevaluate the closure on Nov. 11. The district tentatively plans for preschool classes to resume on Nov. 16.
The emergency meeting was called after about 10% of district teachers and paraprofessionals were absent on Nov. 4, including 40% at West Elementary alone.
“Most people are aware that in Washington County, the numbers for COVID and quarantining are on an increase and as probably can be expected, it has affected the district,” Superintendent Mark Schneider said. “Although it has only seriously affected one building.”
Schneider said that with so many teachers and paraprofessionals absent, it becomes “like a chess game” to shuffle staff in such a way to ensure coverage for every class, especially considering the current smaller-than-average list of available substitute teachers.
The temporary closure of preschool for three and four year old students will allow remaining staff to help in other areas of the district, including three teachers and three paraprofessionals.
On Nov. 6, nine staff members were absent due to testing positive for COVID-19 and 14 staff members were absent due to quarantine. Less than six students in the district were absent due to positive COVID-19 tests but 121 were absent due to quarantine.
Schneider said the temporary closure of preschool would hopefully “allow the illness to mitigate itself in the younger grades.”
“It’s not something that we take lightly, it’s not something that we like to do. But in this challenging time, we think that it’s something that needs to happen,” Schneider said.
Washington County COVID-19 data shows a steady increase in virus infections throughout the fall. When school started on Aug. 24, the 14-day rolling average positivity rate was only 6%. By early October it had risen to about 10% and by the end of the month it had risen to 19.1% On Nov. 6 the 14-day rolling average positivity rate was 23.8%.